Despite its publication by J.M. Barrie in 1904, Peter and Wendy has attracted very little critical attention. Perhaps the story is so beloved for its adventure-packed plot, and sweet message about a boy who never grows old, that even scholars have trouble criticizing it—despite its obvious calls for analysis as film and literary adaptations continue to appear.
However, most concerning is an apparent gap in the analysis of the story’s disabled villain, Captain Hook, through a modern Disability Studies lens. The following textual analysis of Captain Hook will serve to call attention to the way his disability plays into his role as the villain—for both the reader and the characters in Peter and Wendy—as well as to reassign the inherent complexity of a disabled villain to Captain Hook, who seems to devolve with each adaptation. Theorists do acknowledge that Hook is not the first of his kind—that is, he is not the archetype for such a villainous depiction. Melville’s Ahab and Dickens’ Captain Cuttle, for example, are considered by some to have influenced Barrie’s Captain Hook.
Regardless of which fictional character was actually the first, there is a pattern of using disabled bodies as an avenue through which to incite fear and, ultimately, make the main character look “good” by comparison. There are many factors at play here that then become essential to examining Captain Hook from a Disability Studies perspective: a Victorian Era influence, effeminate traits, and the lingering implications of such a portrayal.
Reitz, Lauren and Murphy, Richard
"Disablist Propaganda: Evil on One Hand, and a Hook for the Other,"
University of South Carolina Upstate Student Research Journal: Vol. 15, Article 6.
Available at: https://scholarcommons.sc.edu/uscusrj/vol15/iss1/6